Two recent articles in the Star Tribune have made me think about the nature of Viking fandom.
Last week, Pat Reusse asked why fans were still so negative toward Brad Childress, but so positive toward Gopher coach Tim Brewster.
First, I'm not sure the comparison works well. Reusse uses the generic "Minnesota fans," but the Viking and Gopher fanbases are not necessarily comprised of the same people. Certainly, many Minnesotans root for both teams. But there are also huge groups of die-hard Viking fans that are either indifferent to or luke-warm toward the Gophers. And do the die-hards that would call themselves "Gopher Nation" share the same deep passion for the Purple that Viking die-hards do? The generic "Minnesota fans" distorts the reality that in many ways, it is two very different fanbases reacting to the coaches.
Second, I think Reusse underestimates the intelligence of Viking fans. For example, he writes:
"The Vikings are 7-3 since Childress made the dramatic switch to veteran Gus Frerotte over third-year player Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback. In most situations, a coach making a key move that worked out so well in the win-loss column would be getting credit for his boldness."
The thing is, most Viking fans are smart enough to know the Vikings have often won despite Frerotte, not because of him. We know he's mediocre at best, and that the Vikings aren't really going to advance very far with him at quarterback. We also know that in three seasons, the quarterbacks Childress has brought to start for the team were Tarvaris Jackson, Brooks Bollinger, Kelly Holcomb, and Gus Frerotte. We also know that Childress is largely in control of the offense. So when the Vikings win defensive battles, when the passing game struggles (Frerotte is tied for the league lead in interceptions), we're not exactly going to become enraptured by Childress and his decision to play Gus Frerotte. We're happy the Vikings have been winning, but we recognize that quarterback is still a giant weakness for the team (which is what prevents them from being realistic Super Bowl contenders), and that there's still no long-term quarterback solution. We also recognize that's largely Brad Childress' fault.
This week, Michael Rand suggests that the Vikings should be getting more love than they are:
"And still there is an overwhelming sense of negativity toward this team. [...] Comments on game stories, even victories, are overwhelmingly negative."
"this team seems worthy of more love than it’s getting. Maybe it’s time to get over personal grudges and negativity and start enjoying a legitimate winning season."
I can't help but think that when I think "Viking fan" and when Michael Rand thinks "Viking fan," we're thinking of two different things. I say that not as a criticism--it's very understandable. You see, Rand (and Reusse, for that matter) are obviously widely exposed to readers of the Star Tribune. I think Rand probably often encounter the views of general Minnesota sports fans--people who follow sports, who root for the local teams, who watch the Vikings and want them to win but are also perhaps more casual about it. And I think that person might be different than, say, a fan that blogs about the Vikings in his free time, or fans that read a lot of their Viking commentary from Viking blogs and Viking message boards, from fans that attend a lot of games and feel emotionally moved by wins and losses. That's not to say Rand doesn't know about us die-hards, but the questions he asks in his post suggest (to me, anyway) that he's thinking about the more general "Minnesota fan" that likes the Vikings. Because as a Viking blogger, my encounters with Viking fans usually seem to be of the die-hard variety. Sure, there's negativity (and maybe too much of it). But here's the key point: nobody is ever going to question whether we're not giving enough love to the Purple. I mean, I blog primarily about the Vikings 12 months a year. If you're a Viking fan reading this, you probably also read other Viking blogs, and you probably spend a lot of time thinking about the Vikings too. If anything, we can be accused of devoting too much love to the Vikings.
Now, maybe I'm just misreading Rand's word choices of "heart" and "love." But it doesn't seem to me that a person asking those questions is really thinking about the die-hard Viking fans (again, that's not a criticism--I'm just exploring here). If people ask me "where are the Vikings in your heart?," they probably mean something like "Do you rank the Vikings ahead of your family, your career, and your religion?" In other words, they certainly don't mean "why don't you love the Vikings more?"